Aug 25, 2014

Review: Lake Mungo (2008)

Lake Mungo is a mockumentary in name, but it's not a comedic sort in the same vein as This is Spinal Tap or A Mighty Wind. It's a horror/drama mockumentary. It sounds weird but it does end up working quite well. While the format itself is not going to make for the scariest movie known to man, it can get really, really creepy. That's the true strength of Joel Anderson's Lake Mungo.

Lake Mungo did open in its native country and two years later was able to secure theatrical distribution in the United States, courtesy of After Dark Films. Clearly we're talking about a handful of theatres and that's not really surprising. The found footage genre exploded in 2007 with twelve movies and many more followed in the next few years. The market can only withstand so many after all. Lake Mungo isn't a found footage horror movie but it's pretty easy to lump it in with the rest of them at quick glance. The film does however have some slight elements of found footage but in no way does it truly fit into the genre.


Genre: drama, horror, mystery
Directed by: Joel Anderson
Produced by: Georgie Nevile, David Rapsey, Joel Anderson, etc.
Written by: Joel Anderson
Music by: N/A
Running time: 87 minutes
Production company: Mungo Productions, Screen Australia, SBS Independent
Distributed by: After Dark Films, Eagle Films, Earth Star Entertainment
Country: Australia
Language: English
Budget: $1,400,000 AUD
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Rosie Traynor, David Pledger, Martin Sharpe, Talia Zucker, Tania Lentini, Cameron Strachan, Judith Roberts, Robin Cuming, Marcus Costello, Chloe Armstrong, Carole Patullo, John Dunn, Laurie Dunn, Kirsty McDonald, James Lawson, Phillip Boltin, Glenn Luck, Simon Wilton




Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) is with her family on a beach before completely disappearing. Her family, refusing to believe she's dead, get the police involved in a search mission. Eventually, they find Alice's body submerged in the water two days later. Strange things begin happening around the Palmer house such as noises coming out of Alice's room or even actual sightings of her. This prompts the Palmers to do what they can to delve deeper into the events surrounding Alice's death.  


Lake Mungo looks like some sort of TV documentary that you'd catch a part of and forget about pretty soon. Joel Anderson has done a great job at completely emulating the proper style and to be honest I even found myself drifting in and out of attentiveness. I'll admit that there are some dull parts but Anderson isn't about to cut the boring stuff and only give you the meat now is he? I commend him for his insistence on staying true to his chosen format and I think that it's what makes Lake Mungo so creepy.

That's because when it comes to what's scary in Lake Mungo, there are some intensely chilling scenes. Nothing that's going to make you jump out of your seat, but you're going to be sitting on your couch, transfixed, dreading what might or might not come next. With just some zooming and some sort of off-putting sound, Joel Anderson creates some pretty haunting stuff.

Bringing up M. Night Shyamalan in a positive light is a risky thing to do but I'm going to do it anyway. If you haven't seen Signs yet, skip the rest of this paragraph (also, go see Signs while you're at it). You remember that scene in Signs, where that alien steps out from behind a bush at that Mexican children's birthday party? Obviously right? Those are the kind of chills you'll get from Lake Mungo and I'm kind of getting the shivers thinking back on what I'm talking about as I write this.

Joel Anderson sticks to his mockumentary format even when it comes at the cost of some periods of dullness. I'm OK with that because it makes this whole production feel a lot more real. The chilling moments in Lake Mungo are worth their weight in gold and you got to see the entire movie to properly appreciate them. Joel Anderson isn't about to turn horror on its head or anything but Lake Mungo is a completely satisfactory way to watch some horror.



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